Anthemis nobilis L. (Roman Chamomile)

Anthemis nobilis L. (syn. Anthemis odorata Lamk.; Chamaemelum nobile L., All.; Chamaemelum odoratum Dod.; Chamomilla nobilis God.; Leucanthemum odoratum Eid. Ap.; Ormenis nobilis Gay), so-called Roman chamomile, is a perennial herb of the Asteraceae family. It is native to the southwest of Europe (France, Spain, and Portugal), and has spread all over the Europe. It is also present in southwest Asia.

The plant reaches a height of 15 to 30 cm and generally flowers from June to September. A. nobilis plants are cultivated in the south of England, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Egypt, and Argentina. In France (Anjou) more than 160 ha are devoted to this cultivation; the production yield is about 1 ton of dry flowers per ha. As a result of breeding, some of the tubular florets present in the wild plant have become ligulated, and it is these “double” or “semi-double” flower heads which form the commercial drug.

The double variety (cultivar) is the main source of the commercial drug today, and has been certainly known since the 18th century; it is sterile, and is propagated vegetatively by suckering. The flowers are collected in dry weather and dried; storage is achieved in the absence of humidity (oxidation of polyphenols).

The morphological characteristics and chemical composition of the flower heads of the cultivar variety are different from those of the wild plant. Whole plants, particularly flowers, have a strong aromatic odor and a bitter taste. The Roman chamomile drug is described in several pharmacopeia, where it is indicated that the drug can be falsified by Chrysanthemum parthenium L. and Matricaria maritima flowers.

The complete dried flowers are sold by herbalists, while damaged ones are used for the production of essential oil by distillation. One kilogram of fresh flowers yields approximately l-2g. of essential oil. The production quantities rarely exceed 500 kg of essential oil per year.

Pharmacological Effects of Anthemis nobilis

Pharmaceutical preparations from Roman chamomile are prescribed for both internal and external use (); tincture at 20% in 30-50% alcohol, flower infusion at 3% for external use and 2% for internal use, tea composed of different plants including Roman chamomile and freeze-dried extracts.

The plant presents different medicinal properties, such as sedative related to the presence of esters, antiinflammatory related to the presence of flavonoids, sesquiterpene lactones, and azulenes, antispasmodic related to the presence of apiin and of luteoside, bitter tonic because of nobilin and its derivatives, antibacterial related to the presence of sesquiterpenic lactones and essential oil constituents, and cytotoxic related to the presence of nobilin, 1,10-epoxynobilin and 3-dehyd-ronobilin.

In cosmetology, the extracts are used in shampoos, bath preparations, hair dye formulas, preparations to prevent sunburn, mouth washes, creams, and gels to treat cracked nipples.

Anthemis nobilis: Conclusions and Prospects

The double cultivar of Anthemis nobilis plant is commercially cultivated in several European countries, and is propagated vegetatively. The essential oil extracted from the flower head is used in pharmacological preparations, and in the aromatic and cosmetic industries.

The tissue cultures were established including normal cultures (callus, cell suspension, and adventitious shoot cultures) and transformed cultures (crown gall tumors and hairy roots).

The micropropagation of the plant was easily achieved following two different cultural steps: shoot multiplication and rooting. The resulting plantlets were successfully transplanted to soil conditions. In the case of the cultivated variety of A nobilis, the in vitro micropropagation method is of particular importance since this variety cannot be propagated through seeds (sterile variety) like the wild type, but through vegetative propagation (suckering). In addition, it has been reported that the parasite, Phytomiza syngenesia, causes severe damage to the cultivated variety under field conditions and that the plant variety is sensitive to cold-weather damage. In order to overcome these disadvantages, micropropagation could be considered as a potential source of healthy plant collection.

The capability of all the different cultures we established to accumulate essential oil was investigated and compared to that field of grown plants. The addition of crude polysaccharide fraction from yeast extract and from the plant itself to shoot cultures affected the composition and total essential oil content (from 0.08 to 0.30% dry weight). The essential oil content of the crown gall tissue of A. nobilis was 0.25% of the dry weight, and the composition of the essential oil was comparable to that of the flowers. In the plant, the accumulation of volatile compounds is restricted to particular morphological structures, the glandular hairs. This tissue-specific regulation is consequently correlated with a low yield of the essential oil content in undifferentiated cultures. It was also observed that the establishment of the root system affects the essential oil composition of the regenerated plantlets. On the other hand, at the surface of the leaf of the shoots cultured in vitro, several glandular hairs were observed. The analysis of rooted plantlets showed that the essential oil content was four times higher than in the shoot cultures without roots. Therefore, in addition to the presence of glandular hairs, the establishment of the root system affects the essential oil content and composition. The root system might be a source of precursors for essential oil biosynthesis.

In order to decouple biochemical differentiation and morphological differentiation, hairy root cultures were established. The transformed root cultures incubated under dark conditions are not able to accumulate the typical esters found in the essential oil. On the other hand, it has been reported that green hairy roots from some plant species grown in the light produced certain levels of useful secondary metabolites characteristic of aerial parts of the plant rather than of the root system grown in the dark. Further study of green hairy root cultures would provide basic knowledge on the essential oil biosynthesis.

Selections from the book: “Medicinal and Aromatic Plants IX” (1996).